Al Franken accuses Ann Coulter of lying by using endnotes. According to Franken:
Coulter knows that her readers… are probably not going to check one, let alone 780, of her endnotes.
[p. 12, Lies]
So Franken devised a clever plan: illustrate how dishonest it can be to put information in an endnote–by putting information in an endnote.
The problem however is not that Franken used an endnote. The problem is that he lied in the process. The first lie was in the set-up, where Franken falsely claims that he is about to present an example of Coulter “slandering” someone:
The entire book [Slander] is filled with distortions, factual errors, and vicious invective–slander, if you will–bolstered by the shoddiest research this side of the Hitler diaries.
Take, for example, this gem from page 68.
[p. 9, Lies]
What was the example of alleged slander? Franken quotes Coulter accusing Evan Thomas of Newsweek of being
“the son of Norman Thomas, a four-time Socialist candidate for president.”
[p. 9, Lies]
As Franken points out, Evan Thomas of Newsweek is not the son of Norman Thomas. That would indeed seem to be an example of “slander… bolstered by the shoddiest research this side of the Hitler diaries” as Franken had claimed. But let’s not forget Franken’s endnote:
Evan Thomas is the grandson of Norman Thomas. Did you find this endnote? Congratulations
[p. 407, Lies]
Evan’s father also had the named “Evan”. Additionally, Evan’s father had the last name of “Thomas,” which made two of them. They are father and son and each has the name “Evan Thomas.” Apparently the “shoddiest research…” is that Coulter thought the son of Norman Thomas was Evan when actually it was Evan. Is that slander, as Franken claimed? No.
The problem is not that Franken omitted anything in the chapter and “hid” it in the endnote. The problem is that Franken said things in the chapter which are not true, and the information in the endnote does nothing to change that. Therefore, the ironic point which Franken was ostensibly making, is inapt. Franken didn’t just put information in an endnote, he also lied. And that wasn’t his only lie.
He also prints a transcript of a call he alledgedly made to Evan Thomas in which he asked about the issue. The transcript of the call, however, does not show Evan mentioning anything about Norman Thomas being his grandfather. So either Franken left it out of the transcript–which is dishonest–or Evan Thomas left it out of the conversation–which is dishonest. A third option exists of course, which is that the call never actually took place and was just a satirical bit by Franken to exaggeratedly illustrate his non-point, but even if the call transcript is an attempt at comedy, the exclusion of key information makes it no less dishonest.